Syria air strikes: Jeremy Corbyn says it's 'almost inevitable' civilians will be killed by British bombing

The Prime Minister has downplayed the likelihood of civilian casualties

Jon Stone
Thursday 03 December 2015 08:20
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

It is “almost inevitable” innocent civilians will be killed in an extension of UK bombing raids on Syria, the leader of the Labour Party has said.

Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of rushing through Wednesday night’s vote on military action for fear that opposition to the war was growing.

“I had argued, and will continue to do so, that we should re-double our efforts to secure a diplomatic and political end to the conflict in Syria,” he said in a statement posted on social media.

“British service men and women will now be in harm’s way and the loss of innocent lives is sadly almost inevitable.”

The Syrian Human Rights Observatory regularly reports civilian deaths from air strikes in the country, where operations by other nations are already taking place.

David Cameron claimed there were "no reports of civilian casualties" from UK operations in Iraq.

The Prime Minister's claim is, however, contradicted by figures from the Iraq Body Count organisation, which estimates that as many as 369 civilians were killed by international coalition forces between January and June of this year.

Polls suggest that more of the public support the strikes than actively oppose them but there has been a sharp movement towards stronger opposition in recent days.

The action no longer enjoys overall majority public support, according to the latest opinion surveys published by YouGov and other firms.

Labour was split on whether to support the air strikes, with the party’s leader, most of his MPs, shadow cabinet, and members opposed to the bombing.

But a small group of the party’s pro-intervention MPs voted with David Cameron, ensuring the raids could go ahead.

A total of 17 members of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet voted against the strikes, compared to 11 who voted in favour.

MPs voted 397 to 223 to extend action in the House of Commons last night after a 10-hour debate on the subject, with some Conservative MPs opposing the bombing.

British warplanes launched their first air strikes against Isis militants in Syria hours after Parliament authorised an extension of bombing to the country.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the planes were part of the "first offensive operation in Syria and conducted strikes".

The Royal Air Force joins strikes by US, French, and allied air forces, which are already being conducted in the country.

British planes have also already been conducting strikes against the same militants in neighbouring Iraq, where they also operate. The border between the two countries is currently uncontrolled.

The Government says the UK should not "outsource" its security to other nations.

David Cameron told MPs during the debate that the strikes would hit Isis in their "heartland".

"This is not about whether we want to fight terrorism, it's about how best we do that," he said.

"The question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people. Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?"

Mr Corbyn said MPs who voted for the bombing should be treated with respect after reports that activists were moving against them.

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